Despite admitting that the allegations against him are true, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner announced on Friday that he still won't resign in the face of a sexual harassment scandal that just seems to get worse and worse. But don't worry. He's going to take two weeks off in August for "intensive" therapy to address his attitude towards women.
"Let me be absolutely clear: the behavior I have engaged in over the years is wrong," the mayor said at a press conference on Friday, adding that his conduct was "inexcusable." Arguing that he's "spent [his] whole professional life" working for equality for everyone, the mayor went on to say that he "must take responsibility for my conduct," by taking 2 weeks off as mayor to attend a clinic, where he'll get "intensive counseling" as the first step in an "ongoing" process to correct his behavior. "I must become a better person," the mayor said, indicating that he hopes he'll "one day be forgiven" for his behavior. The mayor will be in therapy from August 5 through August 19.
For the past two weeks, Filner's faced mounting calls to resign as an increasing number of women (the tally stands currently at 7) came forward with accusations ranging from sexual comments to unwanted touching and kissing. So far, he's standing by his initial refusal to resign when his conduct became public earlier this month.
In addition to apologizing (again) to the women he's harassed, the mayor also apologized for his initial excuse for his misconduct, that he wasn't aware his actions were offensive until it was pointed out to him by a friend. The mayor, who is 70, had previously gone the Paula Deen route and framed his behavior as a remnant from a "previous generation," implying that he believes his treatment of women was, once upon a time, acceptable. But the details of the mounting Filner scandal makes one wonder why the bulk of America's collective sex scandal outrage this week was directed at New York Mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner. The LA Times has a rundown of the allegations, all by prominent women in the San Diego community.
Filner's former director of communications, Irene McCormack Jackson, filed a lawsuit in San Diego County Superior Court seeking unspecified damages for Filner's treatment of her. The suit alleges that he frequently put her in a headlock, made sexual comments and, on one occasion, said she should work without her panties on.
Veronica "Ronne" Froman, a retired Navy rear admiral who became the city's chief operating officer under Filner's mayoral predecessor, Jerry Sanders, said that during a meeting with Filner while he was in Congress, Filner "stopped me and he got very close to me. And he ran his finger up my cheek like this and he whispered to me, 'Do you have a man in your life?' "
Froman said she rebuffed Filner but was so rattled that she told two men who were at the same meeting to "never leave me alone in a room with Bob Filner again."
And another, from San Diego State University Dean Joyce Gattas (as reported by KPBS):
"Where he's held me and held me too tight, kiss on the cheek which is inappropriate, hand on the knee that lasted too long," Gattas said. "Moreover, I've been in the environment where he has made those sexual comments to others." Gattas helped create sexual harassment policies at SDSU.
"I've seen the interaction from others when they cringe when he's had those interactions," Gattas said. "I've experienced his sexual innuendoes with me at various events that, again, have left me in that strange feeling of -- this is inappropriate, this is un-wanted and this shouldn't be happening."
And those stories are just some of a handful emerging, covering just Filner's short time as San Diego mayor, about eight months. His career in politics, however, spans decades:
The amazing thing about the Filner scandal is that he was in Congress for TWENTY YEARS and none of this came out.— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) July 26, 2013
Given the stories of the women who have come out so far, it is perhaps less surprising that one of Filner's long-time friends brought up his sexual conduct publicly in the first place, asking the mayor to resign weeks ago. The specifics of his interactions only began to emerge after the mayor declined to do so. In the past few days, however, local Democratic officials have demanded his resignation. Even DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, saying she was "personally offended" by his conduct, demanded his resignation on Friday.